The population on Earth continues to grow at a staggering rate, with around 80 million new people on Earth each year. Those people need food, which puts an ever increasing strain on our farmland and water supply. Thankfully, we have technology, and applying tech to farming is allowing us to grow food better and without many of nature’s restrictions we’ve had to accept until now.
One of the companies showing how tech can revolutionize farming is AeroFarms. They’ve created a farming system that allows the leafy greens found in all our salads to be grown without need of sunlight, soil, or pesticides. The completely controlled environment for growing also uses 95% less water and allows for much more intensive farming meaning greater yields.
As the video explains, AeroFarms uses a smart aeroponics system which mists the roots of their plants with just the right amount of water, nutrients, and oxygen. The huge water saving is achieved through a combination of that control and a closed-loop system meaning no water is ever wasted.
Growing is achieved with a special LED light that has had its spectrum, intensity, and frequency adjusted to perfectly suit photosynthesis on a per plant basis. AeroFarms even go so far as to say they can “control size, shape, texture, color, flavor, and nutrition” using such smart lighting. As for pests, the way in which growing happens doesn’t allow for the life cycle of common pests to happen, and so no pesticides are required.
Is this the future of farming? Probably. The fact it can be done so intensively and pretty much anywhere in the world with a reliable power supply makes it a highly desirable method of food production. And AeroFarms isn’t the only company involved in this futuristic farming. Toshiba has turned an old floppy disc factory into a farm growing lettuce that doesn’t need washing. Meanwhile, Japanese company Spread has a farm run by robots set to produce 30,000 lettuce a day.
Two million pounds of fresh produce, including salads, potatoes and herbs, are grown and distributed to the New Jersey and New York City area each year from AeroFarms’ Newark facility. However, instead of open fields, soil, sunlight and large quantities of water, this facility demonstrates aeroponics at scale, and is beginning to be viewed by many as a potential model for the future of urban farming.
Traditional farming methods require acres of land and tonnes of water, but AeroFarms’ flagship facility takes up just 70,000 square feet and uses 95% less water than open field agriculture.
Shelf-like bins house the crops, while LED lights replace sunlight and reusable fabric extracted from recycled bottles replace soil. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are not required, while the need for fertiliser is reduced by 50%.
Staggering crops throughout the year and the ability to grow in tight spaces have been critical to the high levels of production achieved; they switch between 22 different crops featuring nearly 250 varieties of fruit and vegetables during the year, all while growing 70 times more per square foot compared against other methods.
In many ways, aeroponics as a technique is a direct response to the modern context, where space is becoming more limited, awareness of water finiteness is increasing and a large (increasing) percentage of the global population lives in cities.
There are a growing number of examples of innovators experimenting with the possibilities of urban farming. However, there are very few projects that have achieved the scale and commercial success of AeroFarms.
Photo via Visual hunt
Of course, even this method isn’t free of questions. For some, the prospect of a future where large quantities of crops are grown without any natural sunlight is unpalatable and there may be unknown issues caused by that disconnection, though it’s worth noting that the technology has existed for some time and has been thoroughly tested.
However, there’s no question that the global food system needs innovation and this solution is one of those that offers the most promise, particularly from the perspective of being able to grow the volumes of food needed to supply modern cities.
Seb writes daily content for Circulate across the full spectrum of the website’s topics. Previously he has spent five years as a freelance writer for a number of websites and blogs. You can e-mail Seb at seb[at]circulatenews.org
As the world’s population continues to climb, the climate continues to change, and issues of water and food scarcity arise, interest in alternative farming mechanisms is growing. Jiyoo Jye, M.Des. ’16, a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, is attracted to the social and cultural narratives within this agricultural revolution, as captured in her living, open research archive Rooted in Air.
Hydroponic, aeroponic, fogponic, aquaponic, and related systems for growing food require fewer natural resources and can be constructed for as little as $30. A do-it-yourself culture is in full bloom, with more of these methods becoming available to the masses and to the novice farmer. “Rooted in Air” is Jye’s contribution to this blossoming community, an online platform for case studies, idea-sharing, and discussion.
With help from a student sustainability grant from the Office for Sustainability, Jye was able to expand her thesis research into a full-fledged investigation of soil-less farming modules and the urban stewardship that these methods can promote.
Of her research, Jye said, “It’s about growing produce in the absence of soil and investigating ways in which soil-less farming informs plausible solutions for urban food production. In doing so, it reflects upon how the revolution of alternative urban farming practices are engineering new feedbacks within the synthetic ecology of agriculture and considerably influencing the social actors of its domain. The survey of soil-less farming systems offers a framework for comparing how agricultural practices are being aligned with economic viability across scales.”
Jiyoo Jye presented her work at the April 2016 Office for Sustainability showcase. Photo by Katie Hammer
To begin her exploration, Jye turned to research to look at environmental and societal extremes, such as droughts, floods, and food crises, that can move people to these alternative farming mechanisms while also examining the increasingly popular desire to connect more with our food: to know how it’s grown, where it comes from, and often to grow it ourselves.
As part of this “witnessing” phase, Jye gathered case studies on alternative farming, including the MIT OpenAg Initiative, the O’Hare International Airport Aeroponic Garden, Japan’s Granpa Dome, and the underwater Nemo’s Garden in Italy, all of which are archived on her site. From these examples, Jye began to weigh the pros and cons of soil-less agriculture.
She found that these systems save water, often eliminate the need for harmful pesticides (due to their required sterile environments), and offer a higher yield per square foot, thus encouraging the DIY movement of scaling and customizing personal farms. Additionally, soil-less farming methods are continuously forming new kinds of environments, or rather sealed containers, of synthetic naturalism. However, she also found that most of the systems are still new and rely completely on electricity, and thus are not yet able to be the primary means of urban food production.
Jye’s next step was to “situate.” She immersed herself in the trial-and-error process of creating a personal aeroponic module, which she dubbed “Aeropond.” Before she went too deep into renderings, Jye, who has no farming experience, set out to see if she could grow a seed into a pea. Through this discovery process, she also spent time thinking about containers, moving from growing plants in natural and tradition-steeped terra cotta planters to sterile, synthetic plastic vessels.
Graphic rendering by Jiyoo Jye
“I’m at a point now where I’m starting to understand their temperaments — how vulnerable plants are, but also how strong they can become,” said Jye, noting also that she has developed a newfound agricultural vernacular.
Ultimately, after successes and failures (she was able to grow the pea), Jye decided that what seemed to be missing was the middle ground. She’s now most interested in bridging the gap between personal experience and communal action, and in urging others to think about their places as social actors in the food system.
Through her research archive, Jye also hopes that the growing number of projects and case studies will not only help build community, but, through dialogue, encourage those who may have felt intimidated to plant some starting seeds.
By Leah Burrows, SEAS Communications | June 2, 2016
Hydroponics can play a vital role in changing the way we think about plant growth and may well be the future of gardening and farming.
Have you ever wanted to grow your own vegetables or herbs at home but were unable to do so for lack of space? If so, hydroponic gardening could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
The science of soil-less gardening is called hydroponics. It basically involves growing healthy plants without the use of a traditional soil medium by using a nutrient like a mineral rich water solution instead. A plant just needs select nutrients, some water, and sunlight to grow. Not only do plants grow without soil, they often grow a lot better with their roots in water instead.
Hydroponic gardening is fast becoming a popular choice for many growers around the world due to its more sustainable approach to resource usage than the usual growing methods. Here are a few of its many benefits:
By providing constant and readily available nutrition, hydroponics allows plants to grow up to 50% faster than they would in soil. Also, fresh produce can be harvested from a hydroponic garden throughout the year.Great for both the environment and the grown product, hydroponic gardening virtually eliminates the need for herbicides and pesticides compared to traditional soil gardening.Any water that is used in hydroponic gardening stays in the system and can be reused, reducing the constant need for a fresh water supply!Arable land is often in short supply and gardening space continues to decrease. A great option when you lack yard space or have a tiny balcony, hydroponics also lends itself really well to indoor gardening.
Also Read : 7 Great Techniques by Which You Can Easily Harvest Rainwater at Your Home This Monsoon
Ready-to-use store bought solutions can be used for hydroponics nutrient systems or one can make one’s own special solutions for different types of crops based on the chemical elements the plants need most.
The right nutrient mix combines primary nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, magnesium), secondary nutrients (calcium, sulphur, phosphorus) and micronutrients ( iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, boron). Here is a recipe for a basic nutrient solution that you can make yourself by diluting the nutrients in 20 litres of filtered water.
25 ml of CaNO3 (calcium nitrate)1.7 ml of K2SO4 (potassium sulfate)8.3 ml of KNO3 (potassium nitrate)6.25 ml of KH2PO4 (monopotassium phosphate)17.5 ml of MgSO4 (magnesium sulfate)2 ml of trace elements
Store your solution in a food-grade container at room temperature and away from light. Make sure to shake it well before using. Also, your plants will inform you if they are receiving too few or too many nutrients – not enough and the leaves will turn yellow; too much and they will look brown, burnt or curled.
While you can grow almost anything hydroponically, some vegetables thrive more in hydroponic systems than others. Choose plants that don’t mind moisture and that don’t get too big for their set up, such as cucumber, tomato, capsicum, strawberry, lettuce and leafy greens.
Also, when setting up a hydroponic garden, depending on the size, sturdiness and root development of the plants to be grown and the structure of the system, one needs to decide whether to use only a solution culture or some sort of a growth medium.
Plants with shallow roots, like leafy greens, do fine in solution cultures. On the other hand, plants with deep roots, such as beets, and heavy vegetables, such as cucumbers, do better with growth mediums such as foam, coconut husk, sponges, and peat moss.
Also, flowering and fruiting plants need exposure to sunlight while leafy greens grow well even under inexpensive fluorescent lights that are placed above them.
For beginners, a simple raft system is ideal. It’s easy to make, doesn’t cost much to get going and will give you vegetables much more quickly than conventional gardening methods. Here’s how you can make one.
Vertical hydroponic systems provide an excellent option for gardeners lacking space. Try and remember to use recycled materials to put the system together and make your hydroponic system as green as they can be.
Here’s how you can build a hydroponic system using PVC pipes.
A small yard, a corner in a community garden or an unused space in your home can easily be turned into a thriving aquaponic farm for vegetables and fish. An aquaponic system combines elements of aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic environment by putting fish waste to work as fertiliser for crops. The system is mostly enclosed, with little to no waste and no need for fertiliser or pesticides.
A typical household-sized vertical aquaponic system can fit into a 3ft by 5ft (1m x 2m) area. A small pump draws nutrient-rich water from the fish tank to the tops of the vertical columns. The water trickles down through the roots of the plants, gathering oxygen from the air as it falls back into the tank.
Simply put, hydroponics can grow the healthiest food possible, in large quantities, in the smallest space and in a sustainable way. Not only does hydroponics accomplish all the goals set by organic farming, but it takes a step further by offering people the ability to grow food in places where traditional agriculture simply isn’t possible.
NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Fresh summer crops are starting roll in and this year the leafy greens you’re eating could be coming from a farm in Newark.
CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez explored how some farmers in New Jersey are growing crops in an innovative way.
A former paintball arena in Newark is not the most obvious place for a farm. You won’t see acres of farmland, but towers. It’s what’s known as a vertical farm.
“We define it as multiple levels of growing — one level on top of another approximately every three feet. The system behind us is 20 feet high and it has seven levels of growing,” AeroFarms co-founder David Rosenberg said as he stood in front of the setup.
There’s no soil and no sunlight, but Rosenberg said productivity fair exceeds the output of a conventional farm.
“Because of fully controlled environments, we have 22 crop turns a year versus typically three, and we do that additionally using 95 percent less water, typically 50 percent less fertilizers or nutrients, and zero pesticides, herbicides, fungicides,” Rosenberg said.
It’s done by delivering the exact spectrum of light the plants need, and by aeroponics — a system of growing that mists roots with water and nutrients.
“We study what the plant wants. What are those nutrients, micro-nutrients? And we’re able to deliver it to the plant,” he said.
Seeds are germinated on a reusable cloth that co-founder Marc Oshima said has been specifically created as the optimum growing medium for this type of farming.
“Here, we’re using 100 percent recycled plastic. We’re actually taking 24 water bottles out of the waste stream and creating something green and productive,” Oshima said.
The panels are transferred to the tower where over the course of only 12 to 16 days, they move along the row where they grow and are harvested.
“We’re able to give consumers products that are actually better and tastier and more interesting than something that they would find in the store,” dietitian and managing manager Alina Zolotareva said.
The methods can even make usually tough and bitter kale sweeter and more tender.
“Right now we are selling out. We have more demand than we have supply,” Zolotareva said.
Right now AeroFarms is growing more than 10 varieties of baby leafy greens such as romaine, arugula and watercress and there are major plans for expansion. In spite of the hi-tech growing, they’re priced competitively in supermarkets.
High tech farming is making its way to Sylvester, educating young kids about the importance of agriculture in our region. Some say that one aspect of that farming, aeroponics, will change the way you think about farming.
Janya Green is 12 years old. Ever since she was born she’s been fascinated by the gifts from the ground. “Right here are watermelons. Right here, these are banana peppers. These are cucumbers,” she said.
It’s a passion she shares with her grandfather John L. Green who’s been farming all his life. “When I was growing up like her, I was out there chopping cotton, picking cotton, all that,” he said.
But his entire view of farming quickly changed when Janya told him about aeroponics. “He basically looked at me like I was crazy and didn’t understand what I was saying at all,” she said.
But it didn’t take long to convince him the benefits of aeroponics. Nutrients and minerals from bins mix together through a hose which is eventually dispersed to the towers. And on each tower small cups where vegetables are planted.
“Wow. It’s amazing what this little area right here can do,” said Mr. Green. These towers equate to two and a half acres of land And growing vertically isn’t the only thing different about aeroponics. No soil is required here.
“Inside of here is volcanic ash. It’s basically a sponge-like substance that helps the roots to grow inside of it,” said Janya Green.
And in just 21 days these plants will be ready to eat. Producing tomatoes, greens, and broccoli.
Mr. Green hopes the high tech aspect of this type of farming will spark the interests of younger kids who will have a greater appreciation for produce and may one day pursue a career in agriculture.
Those towers were donated to the Village Community garden from Fort Valley State University as a part of their Jump off STEAAM program.
NEW YORK, May 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Vertical farming is a high-tech solution of controlled-environment agriculture. Vertical Farming is the practice of growing food in vertical stacked layers, vertically inclined surfaces or integrated in other structures. It is an emerging trend in urban agriculture. The main advantages of vertical farming is increased crop production, protection from weather-related problems, conservation of resources, organic crops, energy production, etc. with basic technological requirement of artificial lighting, climate control and fertigation.
The overall market can be analyzed based on various types, technologies, components as well as applications. On the basis of types, vertical farming can be categorized as Mixed-use skyscrapers, Despommier’s skyscrapers and Stackable shipping containers. The increase in vertical farming is due to two technology i.e. hydroponics and aeroponics. The vertical farms consists of many components such as pumps, power adaptors, anaerobic digesters, solar panels, LEDs lighting, Wind turbines, etc. which increases the productivity. Vertical farming has various applications such as Agricultural sub system, Aquacultural sub system, Food Processing sub system, Waste Management sub system, etc.
The market is also analyzed based on geographic regions which are grouped into Americas, APAC, Europe as well as ROW regions. Due to developed and improved technologies in APAC countries such as Japan, China and South Korea, vertical farming has been enhanced to eradicate the problems of increase in population. In America, U.S.A. is biggest manufacture of these farms. Some ROW countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also lead manufacturer of vertical farming.
The major driving factors for the vertical farming market are rapid progress in technology with improvement in irrigation techniques, development in synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, widespread of pesticides, advanced plant breeding, satisfy the rapid growth in consumer’s demand and other innovative factors.
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